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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 2, 2011 1:47pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Late 73 vs Summer 74

That would be an interesting experiment. One reason I bonded with early Dead was simply the sound of the guitars, which is partly why their later years sound "off" to me... Actually even by '73 I'm kind of unhappy with Weir's wimpy sound. It would be quite amusing to hear the guitar sounds transposed between, say, '68 and '93...

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 2, 2011 2:06pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Late 73 vs Summer 74

The warmth, richness, and body of the best late 60s recordings is so amazing in comparison to the later years. I think there is a tension between what sounds the best as recorded, and what the musicians want to hear while on stage. The history of the band's sound systems and gear is strongly influenced by their desire to hear clearly while playing. As great as a good 68 soundboard can be to listen to, I bet the experience of the musicians while playing was pretty frustrating. I think the musical tensions that led to the infamous "firings" of 68 were partly the result of trying to play complex and dynamic music without being able to hear clearly.

It seems that the band's sound became less and less "blended" over time as everyone's gear became more customized and they evolved the sound system. The notorious "ear monitors only" system of the final years can be seen as the most extreme form of making each instrument an island unto itself. I think one of the reasons the last three years are so hard to listen to is that there is zero blend between the instruments whatsoever. In any normal stage setup, there is actually quite a bit of "bleed" between all the different microphones. Too much bleed makes things sound undefined, and boomy/echoey, but no bleed at all can make the recording sound lifeless and unnatural.

I always hear the late 60s band as very tightly unified by everyone locking into Garcia, and Jerry playing very strong and assertive lines. Some of this style may be the result of necessity - the sound onstage was probably like a jet engine so it was necessary to have the lead guitar very cranked and everyone just had to follow what they could hear.

Even though the gear and amplification was less technically advanced, the restrictions it placed on them may have paradoxically been helpful to the music. There is a kind of strength and power to the 68 sound that is already mostly gone by 71.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 2, 2011 2:39pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Late 73 vs Summer 74

A lot to chew on there!
Of course a couple different things were happening at the same time in these years - the band's music was getting increasingly laid-back and textural, while their sound systems were getting clearer.

So in '68, when the band mainly wanted to play loud & louder, it probably was just a big blare onstage... (You had the situation of nobody wanting to turn down!)
I think 1970 is the last year when we get a lot of complaints from the band about having a hard time hearing onstage. Things seem to have been finally straightened out in '71.
It's around that time that we start getting quieter, more wide-dynamic sections in the jams....well, Dark Star had been leading the way in that regard for a while, sometimes by late '69 they were turning it down to a whisper - but in general, '71 has quite a breakthrough in jamming dynamics, that may well have been enabled by a better monitor system.

And by '73, with the songs written for Wake of the Flood the Dead were definitely more interested in doing quiet, textured songs - and with their more laid-back style in general, they no longer would have wanted the "strength & power" of their '68 sound! Rather, they wanted those WRS Preludes and Stella Blues to be heard in the back rows...
I think many of the guitar changes in those years were a hunt for a cleaner, clearer sound - and they were also keen on blending well with each other, so as one instrument changes, the others respond. (I'm pretty sure, for instance, Garcia switched to a thinner guitar sound in '72 because Keith was now filling out the band's sound. And Weir always tried to stay out of Garcia's usual sonic ranges; he's talked often in interviews of his efforts to keep the guitars sounding distinct.)

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